Digital Advancement in AEC – from CAD to BIM, towards Digital Twins

BIM is Revolutionizing the AEC Industry

Embracing Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been a global milestone for the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. BIM allows organizations to create digital representations of assets and manage their design information. This technology has brought new consistency and efficiencies to a project's design and construction phases.

Though widely adopted for 3D information modeling for the design and construction stages, the BIM process has the potential to be used throughout an asset's lifecycle. It's time to be future-ready by evolving these 3D information models beyond the design and construction phases and extending their application in operational strategies through infrastructure digital twin adoption.

Selecting the Right Software is Critical for Successful BIM Project Delivery

Small to medium-sized practices are familiar with the expression, “there are not enough hours in the day.” It's easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted. Thanks to technological advancements, specialized applications that support different stages/needs of a project are available. Given the wide range of design and BIM workflow applications, picking one or several to deliver all the project requirements can be challenging.

While using a single application may help deliver a specific project requirement, growing businesses often must address multiple needs and end up working with numerous applications.

Firms that adopt multiple applications to perform their tasks face huge investments in employees’ skill development, software license costs, and maintenance. The multi-application approach also adds to productivity loss in the way of unwarranted conversions workflows and poor coordination, affecting the quality of the deliverables.

Many of the above challenges can be met with an integrated multi-discipline design and documentation software. Such software helps create accurate CAD drawings and models with complex 3D geometry. Coordination between different delivery partners and stakeholders is best served by a common source of truth for project information that can ultimately lead to the seamless creation of a digital twin.

Infrastructure Digital Twins are Paving the Way for the Buildings of the Future

Owner-operators today need to bring together the digital model of their facility, their enterprise systems, manufacturing systems, and data feeds from sensors and other IoT devices. As suggested by trends like Industry 4.0, the resulting insight from all these disparate data sets has become indispensable for better understanding of what is happening on a building to improve its efficiency and performance.

Digital twins give users an unprecedented view of built assets. Early adopters have realized the potential of using digital twins in many challenging use cases, such as applying analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) and for decision support throughout the lifecycle of design, construction, and operation.

To realize this potential, representations of assets must of course be digital — but also dynamic to keep up with their changing conditions over time. This requires practical solutions for synchronizing them with changing conditions in the real world. Using past data and extensive real-time surveys, users can create a holistic digital picture of a property that is constantly updated and developed. Digital twins enable a completely new level of transparency and comprehensive knowledge about the building and its operation — and this is the best basis for continuous optimization.

Take BIM Processes to the Next Level with Digital Twins

BIM provides a detailed 3D model of an asset that assists with its design, construction, and operation; as such, it holds critical information that a digital twin would need. Connecting the “as-built model” to regularly updated reality data, live enterprise systems, and IoT sensor data is the foundation of a “living” digital twin.

Additionally, infrastructure digital twins are bi-directionally connected with their real-world counterparts. This means that they can consume real-time data coming from the building as well as send information or commands back to the building to affect its operation in real time.

The application of infrastructure digital twins could be extended to a multitude of use cases. Here are two prominent ones:

Predictive Maintenance

In the predictive maintenance scenario, digital twins can play a strong role in generating data and combining it with available sensor data to build and validate predictive maintenance algorithms. A maintenance company can use it to predict precisely which component of a system is operating and performing as expected. On this basis, the technicians’ assignments can be optimally planned, and the required spare parts automatically ordered 14 days before the assignment.

Resource Management

Understanding occupancy patterns and energy consumption are essential to the responsible use of energy utilities. Over the extended lifecycle of a facility, the amount it contributes to the global CO2 figures is becoming increasingly important. Adapting or renovating an existing facility with a living digital twin may lead to a better briefing at project inception and, therefore, better outcomes.

Activate BIM Data through Infrastructure Digital Twins with OpenBuildings Designer

Infrastructure digital twins span the entire lifecycle of buildings or facilities. They complement BIM solutions and have become indispensable in using data models in a standard process.

With OpenBuildings Designer, Bentley’s all-in-one building design software, users get comprehensive BIM software that provides workflows, toolsets, and flexibility for real-world design scenarios in global construction projects:

  • Multidisciplinary with built-in clash detection
  • Interoperability – Import or export data in multiple file formats
  • Workflow automation with GenerativeComponents, a companion application for computation design
  • Easily scalable
  • Seamless integration with digital twin


Creating a digital twin out of BIM could lead users to upload their digital twins to the digital world, published in the Metaverse. Metaverse is a shared 3D virtual world that is interactive, immersive, and collaboratively shareable and can help humans and robots work together. Here, that experience can be shared more equally.

With Bentley’s iTwin platform, professionals can create a 3D digital infrastructure twin to simulate construction and then monitor and optimize their performance throughout the lifecycle. The tool can help them create transparency in their workflows and gain rich insights that make their infrastructure sustainable and resilient to serve their stakeholders better.

“We are building infrastructures that will benefit future generations,” says Debu Chakraborty, regional director, EMEA, Bentley Systems. In doing so, he says, digital twin technology will open up new opportunities to improve construction processes from the planning phase to project completion by enabling all stakeholders to collaborate, providing visibility of construction progress, ensuring site safety, mitigating risks, and reducing CO2 emissions.

About the Author

Nanette Dorando-Grad is Product Sales Manager – Building Products at Virtuosity, a Bentley company. Nanette provides broad experiences in CAD, BIM, GIS, infrastructure design, and factory planning - digital factory. With more than 15 years of experience in the architectural and engineering industry, she has become a dedicated salesperson of the software data applications she was previously using herself. Nanette worked previously for Bentley Sales Partners in Germany before joining Virtuosity, a Bentley company, in 2020.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in AECbytes sponsored articles are those of the sponsor and do not represent or reflect the views of AECbytes.

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